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Bergevin: 'I think our fans should be proud of our team'

The Canadiens compiled the third largest season-to-season point improvement in franchise history this year, according to the NHL's PR Department

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - What a difference a year makes.

According to the NHL's Public Relations Department, the Canadiens are in the midst of the third largest season-to-season point improvement in franchise history.

With 94 points, Claude Julien's contingent boasts 23 more points in the standings than last year - and they could finish the current campaign with a 25-point increase if they down the Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

Only the 1926-27 and 1943-44 editions of the Habs have staged bigger turnarounds, registering 35 and 33-point improvements, respectively.

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Largest season-to-season point improvement, @CanadiensMTL franchise history:+35: 1925-26 to 1926-27+33: 1942-43 to 1943-44+23: 2017-18 to 2018-19 #NHLStats #TBLvsMTL pic.twitter.com/6tmGhYWlsf

Earlier in the week, general manager Marc Bergevin expressed his delight with the way his group has righted the ship over the last six-plus months.

Going from 29 wins in 2017-18 to 43 wins in 2018-19 is quite an impressive feat.

"After the season we had last year, not many people thought we'd be here today," said Bergevin. "I'm proud that we're still battling for the playoffs. The progress the team has made this season - and we still have a good amount of young players - it's impressive. We had some ups and downs, but I think if you look at the overall picture, I think we came a long way from where we were a year ago. That's what I base my assessment of our team on. I think our fans should be proud of our team and the way they performed this year."

Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference

How did this turnaround happen? A big-time increase in offensive production clearly has a lot to do with it, both up front and on the back end.

The Canadiens' forwards and defensemen have combined to generate 117 more points than last season, scoring an additional 34 goals and collecting 83 more assists.

Forwards upped their production to the tune of 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) over 2017-18, while blueliners have added 31 additional points (11 goals, 20 assists) on the scoresheet.

A fresh start helped Max Domi lead the charge offensively in his first season in his new hockey home. 

After scoring just nine goals in each of the two previous NHL campaigns, Domi more than tripled his numbers in that department, potting a career-high 28 goals with one regular-season tilt still left on the calendar. 

Video: FLA@MTL: Domi snaps home wrist shot

His career-high 43 helpers and 71 points are tops on the Habs' roster entering the regular-season finale versus Toronto.

Fellow new addition Tomas Tatar quickly put a disappointing 2017-18 behind him after being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in September.

The 28-year-old Slovak's career-high 58-point campaign with the Habs marked a 24-point improvement over last season. His career-high 33 helpers represents an uptick of 19 in that department.

Video: PHI@MTL: Domi, Tatar connect for goal

Tatar also improved his differential from minus-19 to plus-23 while lining up alongside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher for the bulk of the year.

Speaking of Danault, the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy winner more than doubled his output points-wise over last year.

After registering 25 points in 2017-18, Danault has a career-high 53 points this season - including a career-high 41 assists. He's also just one goal shy of matching his single-season high of 13.

As for Gallagher, the Canadiens' assistant captain delivered his second-consecutive 30-plus goal and 50-plus point season. His career-high 33 goals are tops on the team, and that includes scoring his first-career hat trick in the NHL ranks.

Video: PIT@MTL: Gallagher puts Canadiens on the board

On the blue line, captain Shea Weber's return to form following offseason surgery yielded tremendous results.

His 14 goals are eight more than he scored last year. He also has nine additional assists, and more than doubled his point production from 16 to 33 along the way. The veteran rearguard enters Saturday's contest with 99 career power-play tallies as well, having lit the lamp with the man advantage on Thursday night in Washington.

Video: NYI@MTL: Weber hammers slap shot past Greiss

For his part, Jeff Petry leads all Canadiens rearguards with a career-high 32 assists and 45 points this season. He also has a career-high 13 goals. It marked the second-straight season that the 31-year-old Ann Arbor, MI native reached the 40-point plateau.

The emergence of Brett Kulak and a career offensive year for Jordie Benn have undoubtedly helped the Canadiens' cause as well.

Keeping the puck out of the net helped, too 

To date, Julien's group has also conceded 33 fewer goals than last year, with Carey Price leading the charge between the pipes.

Price strung together the fifth 30-win campaign of his career in 2018-19.

After picking up 16 wins last season, the seven-time All-Star racked up 35 victories this year, along a 2.49 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and four shutouts. That's his highest clean sheet total since 2014-15, when he took home plenty of hardware at the NHL Awards.

Video: MTL@NYR: Price lunges across to rob Namestnikov

Price, who became the winningest goaltender in Canadiens history in March, has been a model of consistency down the stretch, making 13-consecutive starts and compiling a 6-2-1 record, a 2.02 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in his last nine outings to help the Canadiens remain in the playoff hunt.

Summing it up

When Bergevin met the media, he didn't hide the fact that failing to qualify for the playoffs for the second-straight year would be a disappointment in his eyes.

If the Canadiens do come up short, though, he isn't about to give this season a failing grade. 

His glass half-full approach suggested the team has made far too much progress to do so, especially with just how competitive the playoff race has proven to be in the Eastern Conference.

"There are games we lost with a minute to go and we lost some points, but it's the same thing for Carolina and the same thing for Columbus. Every team during the season has lost points that they would have liked to have. At the end of the day, the standings are what the standings are," said Bergevin. "If you look at the standings, you see how tight it is. Over 80 games, over seven months, two wins makes you jump four or five teams. That's a bounce here and there. That's a penalty here and there. Overall, I think we had a good season."

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